AFT Resolution

PUSH BACK: DEFEATING THE GLOBAL MOVEMENT TO PRIVATIZE EDUCATION AND PUBLIC SERVICES

WHEREAS, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds that access to quality public services provided by governments is a fundamental civic and human right of every citizen; and Education International and Public Services International, the two global union federations in which the American Federation of Teachers is a leading member, have declared as their highest priority the global achievement of the right to high-quality education and public services through publicly funded and publicly regulated systems of government; and

WHEREAS, public education, healthcare and public services are the propellers of a nation’s economy, anchors of democracy and gateways to racial, social and economic justice, and we are called to defend these institutions against the commercializing and privatizing effects of trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement; and

WHEREAS, whether in the form of privately run charter schools in the neighborhoods of Chicago or East St. Louis, or in private, fee-based schools in South Africa, or in the transformation of formerly free or low-cost colleges and universities in Europe into institutions with high tuition and fees, or in deep budget cuts and consequent restructuring of public higher education in Greece, Mexico and other countries under globalization, the expansion of privatization and commercialization of public services is a global phenomenon entrenched in the global economy and secured by poor trade agreements. The results are social and economic inequality, a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, growing social stratification, and greater segregation and discrimination. The market-driven philosophies behind this trend in education (pre-K through higher education), medical services, child care, transportation, prisons and policing, financial services, social welfare and, in some places, even the military put profit margins ahead of the people and communities that governments are intended to serve; and

WHEREAS, corporations that privatize public services have often demonstrated a willingness to “offshore” their profits and assets in order to avoid the proper payment of taxes in support of quality public services; and the public should not be locked into a system of contracts and policies that drain resources, diminish government capacity and block the effective delivery of public services; and

WHEREAS, international financial institutions—among them, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund—are directly complicit in the growth of privatization and commercialization of public services, embracing public-private partnerships for structuring the financial instruments that put the delivery of government services in the hands of for-profit corporations, placing the delivery of services from teaching to healthcare to security in the hands of low-skilled, untrained, low-paid, nonunion workers; and

WHEREAS, the AFT, allied with worker-invested pension funds such as the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund and the Illinois State Board of Investment, international labor unions, concerned shareholders, educators, parents and students, took the fight onto the floor of Pearson’s annual general meeting, and the executives of the world’s largest multinational education corporation defended its investment in a variety of ventures privatizing public education in Africa as an R&D investment for a more ambitious plan for schools around the world:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will encourage and fully support anti-privatization global campaigns initiated by Education International and Public Services International, especially through rank-and-file solidarity among locals across the world, to push back the growing movements to privatize and commercialize education and public services; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will inform and engage our members and affiliates in global networks of union and community activists united in stemming the entrenchment of inequity and discrimination brought about by privatization, and in protecting, defending and improving the public sector workforce; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will lobby against dangerous trade agreements that threaten good jobs and quality public services, will work against trade policies that establish privatization as permanent policy, and will act to prevent the establishment of a global legal system that grants rights to corporations equal to countries and allows corporations to bring suit when privatization policy is reversed or limited; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work to build, expand and develop the communications capacity of the global labor movement to help in the fight for quality public services, and we will work with our members, locals, state federations, community leaders and stakeholders in campaigns to hold international financial organizations, including the World Bank, accountable for the damage done by their advocacy of privatization policies that diminish or eliminate services to the public; and

RESOLVED, that, working with partners around the world, the AFT will act to educate and inform our members, parents and community leaders on the dangers created by Pearson’s business strategy. The AFT will continue to lead the campaign against Pearson’s irrational promotion of high-stakes testing and its outrageous pursuit of private, for-profit schools as an alternative to quality public schools throughout the developing world; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT shall work in cooperation with the International Trade Union Confederation, our global union federations (Education International and Public Services International), the Committee on Workers’ Capital and In the Public Interest to research and share information on the corporate privatizers, privatization attacks on public services, and best practices in the effort to promote quality public services. By organizing and working together, we can magnify the efforts going on around the world to fight privatization and defend universal access to education and other public services so essential to the common good; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT reaffirm its commitment to struggle against the accelerating erosion of free, quality, public education for all; and 

RESOLVED, that the AFT call upon Education International, of which it is a member, to work to promote solidarity among teachers across international borders by: 

  1. Providing economic, social and political analyses and educational materials to teachers unions; 
  2. Maximizing opportunities for rank-and-file solidarity events with locals across the world; and 
  3. Organizing economic and political action in defense of public education and against governments and corporate interests that threaten it. 
(2016)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.